Going into Wednesday's game against Presbyterian, there was no convincing Winthrop coach Randy Peele the Blue Hose were a 2-19 team.
He was convinced his Eagles were in for a long night, but he hoped not too long.
When he walked off the Winthrop Coliseum floor with a 55-48 victory, he felt like he'd won by 20.
"And you still can't tell me they're a 2-20 team," Peele said. "I'm not buying it. Look at who they've played. No one's really blown them out. If you beat them by 11, 12, 13, that's a good win against them."
The Eagles (9-6) built a 12-point lead midway through the second half, watched the Blue Hose come back and then got two big plays from senior point guard Chris Gaynor in the final three minutes to pull it out.
"The big thing is," Peele said, "we finished the game. We didn't finish it (when we had a five-point lead with a minute to play) at Marshall. Tonight we did."
It was the 20th road game of the year for Presbyterian, which is making the move from NCAA Division II to Division I. The Blue Hose will be joining the Big South Conference and that means Peele's going to see a lot more of coach Gregg Nibert's patient, grind-it-out offense.
"This team has unbelievable heart," Nibert said. "We've basically got nine bodies on the bench. This is the toughest team mentally and physically I've ever seen."
The Blue Hose, playing for the second straight night, the fourth time in five days and the fifth game in a week -- plus having the bus ride from Clinton to Rock Hill on Wednesday -- played liked they'd been resting for a month. They were quick with the ball, crisp with their passes and patient running their patterns.
Meanwhile, the Eagles played much of the game like they were wound as tight as a $2 watch.
But after leading 36-30 at the break, the Eagles jumped to 44-32 lead with 10:32 to play on Andy Buechert's three-point play. Michael Jenkins sparked an early second-half run, scoring seven of the Eagles' first 11 points by taking the ball aggressively to the hole.
"That was a grinder right there," Jenkins said, after finishing with 11 points, same as Gaynor. "I thought we'd be all right when we went up nine or so, but they started throwing it inside and playing like a good team should."
The Blue Hose went on a 13-2 run, keyed by 6-foot-8 freshman Al'Lonzo Coleman, who scored seven of his 17 points. He was all but unguardable on the block and Pierre Miller scored on a drive and a deep 3-pointer.
The Eagles led 47-46 when Gaynor stepped up and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the lead to 50-46.
With the score 50-48, both teams missed chances, and Presbyterian got its last chance with 38.5 seconds to play and 16 on the shot clock. The Hose wanted to go inside to Coleman or get Miller coming a screen.
Mantoris Robinson, guarding Coleman, stopped Miller from coming off a Coleman screen and Gaynor got in the passing lane and slapped Walt Allen's pass into the backcourt. He picked it up and dumped it to Taj McCullough for a dunk.
Gaynor had a similar situation at Marshall last week.
"I thought about trying to hold the ball and take a foul," Gaynor said, "but I saw Taj. I'll take a dunk any day over making two free throws."
The Eagles forced a missed 3-pointer by Miller and got a free throw from McCullough before Antwon Harris sealed it by swatting away Miller's drive with just under 10 seconds left.
McCulllough finished off the "semi-rout" with a dunk.
That last minute-flurry was about all the Eagles got out of McCullough, who played just 21 minutes and scored only seven points. He also had foul problems.
"I feel like we won without Taj," Peele said. "He just didn't play well, and this was a lot like a Big South game. The whistles were a little tighter."
In the end, Peele got what he expected -- and a key win as the Eagles get ready to open Big South play Saturday at High Point.
"I knew it would be like this the whole time," Peele said. "I didn't expect anything different.
"A seven-point win. I'll take it."